By: John Juac, 03/AUG/2016, SSN;
The most ardent champions of South Sudan’s ruling party never tire of telling people they must defend the sovereign authority against social forces and social movements. They think that an uncritical approach to leadership is some sort of patriotism, a way of expressing national pride, but not to challenge the policies of leadership is to engage in passive tyranny.
I have been spending some of my time reading over hate e-mails sent by some die-hard party supporters and have been very much struck by their impoverished analyses of the new nation’s woes. Their comments in the e-mails showed disrespectful language.
They were reactions to my recent article posted in the SouthSudannation website and other national sites which dealt with the failure of the SPLM leadership to lift South Sudan out of its current political and economic morasses.
The blind supporters denounced the critique of leadership and questioned my motives and even the moral duty to publish what they termed ‘a false news’ about leadership crisis. They also accused me of waging a media campaign to discredit amazing things their leaders have done since independence and promised good punishments for journalists who disobey the media rules to which others are subject.
What would be those amazing things? They would probably be the destructive force of tribalism and the tendency of this destructive force to free itself from the rule of law, the lusting for power and the looting of public funds intended for national development.
If a good leadership is fundamentally determined by one’s ability to deliver a good punishment, we are sure to find ourselves in the hands of the sophists and hypocrites. The celebrities are political gangs and thugs who want to intimidate those who criticize the tyrannical Juba regime that pays them and that is why they tolerate the tyranny.
The message to the party-right hand men, however, is that there are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what is not true and the other is to refuse to believe what is true.
We can agree or disagree over what these leaders have accomplished six years in power after decolonialization of South Sudan, but no one side is going to talk the other side into accepting its point of view, no matter many moments of silence are required.
Our moral duty as journalists and citizens of South Sudan is to hold our national leaders accountable and no one is beyond critique.
We cannot afford to let a hero worship impede our ability to review our political leaders in all their capacities. Furthermore, we have no illusions about the fact that the current political rule has in its closet the skeleton of dysfunction, and yet there is the decline of the revolutionary utopia and its constituent power, a revolution emerging that points toward the better future.
It was said long-time ago in the real country that “when the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Without a sharp critical assessment of the leadership and the duties of the leadership, there is no freedom of public expression of opinions and progress.
Freedom of expression is an important and fundamental tenet of a free and democratic society. If the Juba regime and its blind party supporters wish to infringe this freedom, they must be prepared to offer a good and sufficient justification for the infringement. We must be free to express ourselves in public affairs.
Journalists present objective information that allows citizens to form their own opinions, and we must continue to do that without fear of intimidation and punishments coming from the corrupt leaders of the day. We must make them and their governments responsive to the will of people. The interests of the great majority of the population have been sacrificed to those of the leaders for too long and we must now expose their cold and heartless.
Citizens have no say in who run their governments, who are hired, how public money is spent, or what social policies will be. These leaders have taken people for granted and cannot live without them. They are opportunists who have exploited ethnic fragmentation and competing demands to bring people over their sides and divide the baby country into partisan war zones. They have made the most of the problems rocking South Sudan today to get to power or cling to power.
Despite the abundant natural resources, citizens have not yet freed from poverty and insecurity, and it has become harder to feed a family even on a good salary. A gap has grown between the reality citizens can see around them and the truth dictated by these unpredictable and tendentiously reactionary leaders.
For many, life under their leadership means endless search for basic necessities, families crowded into one-room apartments, shabby clothes, inadequate food and youth unemployment.
In other words, too many southerners distrust the existing political system which seems powerless to solve the country’s problems, but they are fundamentally passive in the sense that they cannot act by themselves.
They must be led by their maniac warriors who are primarily tied to the defence of the more archaic past and aimed at preserving tradition in the changing society. The maniac warriors tend to look backwards and prove most acceptable to their conservative backers and that is why they are so susceptible to external manipulation.
Trapped in the political misrule and the never-ending internal warfare, South Sudanese are faced with a crisis greater than any since the liberation struggle, and the consequences of not accepting the challenge of this crisis would be catastrophic.
They either change the existing order that has caused more troubles than it has solved by becoming active citizens or watch their country descending into a barbarism. That is inherent in the amoral nature of South Sudanese political leaders and their manic drive for power and wealth at any cost.
Here is a predicament and there are good reasons to believe that they would not soon witness the emerging of a nationalist prophet to lead them out of this predicament. Without autonomous political actions of their own against their subordination and oppression, there would be no alternative to what is on offer from the ruling elite.
This should be a historic time for them organize and work to toward a democratic change, as this crisis has profoundly discredited the ruling elite in the minds of suffering millions.
On the other hand, some international financial watchdogs tend to think that corruption in Africa is just about stealing public money. It is also about putting bad people with no passion in prime positions, and this is evident in South Sudan, where government departments are full of village friends who have no qualifications to the posts other than being clan members.
The new country’s political structure rarely rewards merit, so those running the central and state institutions are squandering not only the trust but also the potential of those they mismanage. They are not only wasting the opportunities but also the future of South Sudan.
This form of corruption is crippling social and economic development, and as most anti-corruption activists noted, corruption is worse than murder in the country. It has killed more millions of pounds than the internal warfare.
Some national banks have been emptied out of their deposits and sent off to various personal accounts in foreign banks, condemning thousands of people to die of curable diseases and hunger. Some would think, and they would not be wrong, that politicians come from poverty and coming into money they would have empathy for those still trapped in the horrors of poverty.
Once these leaders get wealth and decent houses, they are often the last people on earth to care about the poverty they escaped. Combined with vulgar wasting of money on everything materialistic, they are more likely to kick the ladder down to make sure no one else can climb up.
South Sudan’s politicians use their leadership to enrich themselves and leave their country men and women trapped in the horrors of poverty. They also prey and play to the passions and prejudices of the people they represent and not instruct them in ways which foster their development and enhance the quality of their lives.
If one group is set against the other, any efforts to organize people around economic and social equality issues are made much more difficult, and perhaps more important, focusing on the volatile issues diverts attention from broader social and economic matters.
In conclusion, there is no denying that the problem of leadership is one of the top issues in South Sudan.
South Sudan has the capacity to end a generalized institutional crisis, public corruption, civil war and poverty. What really then is lacking is the will to do so, and that will is largely locked in the hands of those who call themselves national leaders.
There is only one path -organize people to create civil societies that hold leadership accountable. Have clear social policies pushed into governments. Peer review your peers and peer review your leaders. Make it so that any leader that has a hint of corruption, tribalism, nepotism, cronyism- has no hope of getting into public office.
The one-party dictatorships of Africa have long since disappeared, but one-party rule is still alive in the new state of South Sudan, and citizens have no power to put pressure on their leadership nor can they shape the leaders that best represent their interests. The solution must come from the people.
John Juac Deng